ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Lobo coach says the culture has changed after one year on the job
LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Its overall record last season was far from eye-popping, and its number of returning players is low.
On top of that, the football tradition at the University of New Mexico? Let’s just say it doesn’t exactly go hand-in-hand with big-time success.
Or much success at all, for that matter.
Still, while this week’s preseason media poll once again has the Lobos finishing last in their division of the Mountain West Conference, they have the attention of just about every coach in the league.
“We were lucky to get out of there with a win last year,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen told the Journal here Tuesday, during the second day of the MWC media days. “Coach (Bob) Davie is a great coach, and you can see it in one year. It’s hard to come into a situation where the program has been struggling, and get in there and make it competitive right away. That’s tough to do, and he’s really got it going in the right direction.”
Petersen’s Broncos went 11-2 last year and 7-1 in the league on the way to a bowl win. But they barely escaped University Stadium with a 32-29 victory over a fired-up Lobo team.
The Lobos, meanwhile were 4-9 and 1-7. But they had a number of close games that left plenty of folks other than Boise State thankful to escape Davie’s bunch.
Now, in his second year, Davie hopes to build on last season.
“If you look at our team, there’s no reason – if you’re a media guy looking at us on paper – to think much,” Davie said of the preseason poll of league media members.
” ‘They won four games last year. They won one conference game. They were pretty close, but they lose all those seniors. They only have three players back on defense.’
“I understand all that, but in some ways that’s a positive. We have a lot of young guys. We have more competition at positions. We’ve got a year under our belts, and I just know, from an efficiency standpoint, the process is much farther along. And it should be.”
Davie says he has 115 players on this roster, and 80 of those guys are in their first or second year of the program. But he is excited about the way his team has progressed.
Still, he’s not making any bold predictions at this point.
“We control our progress, but how we compare to Dave Christensen at Wyoming or Troy Calhoun (at Air Force) or the others, I just don’t know,” he said.
Christensen knows. He says the Lobos are a different team under Davie than during the previous 2 1/2 years under Mike Locksley.
“They played with much more discipline and competed much better,” Christensen says of comparing the 2012 season to 2013. “Bob lost a lot of players in the transition, but I know he’s continued to recruit well, and they’ll be a team that will improve each and every year.
“And what they do from an offensive standpoint is difficult to scheme. They do a great job.”
Davie says there are countless positives this summer because the players now understand the coaches and vice versa.
“It’s completely different,” Davie says. “Last year, there was just so much unknown. First of all, how the players would react through the course of a 13-game season to us? Because, since the day we walked in, we did hard coaching, mandatory class attendance, 6 a.m. workouts, sit up straight at meetings, don’t wear your earring or jewelry at any football functions. Just the discipline process; we didn’t know how that would work.
“But as the season went on, we found out they would really respond in a positive way. So that part is all behind us. I know, for whatever the words mean, ‘change in the culture,’ it is no longer an issue. Now the only unknown is the game itself and playing a higher level of football.”
HEAD’S UP: During the media and coaches meetings, new NCAA football rules were discussed. One change is that players who launch themselves in order to make a tackle, or have helmet-to-helmet contact with an opponent, can be disqualified, along with costing their team a 15-yard penalty. The DQ is reviewable by replay.
“It’s a great rule,” says Wyoming junior quarterback Brett Smith, who missed two games last season after suffering a concussion against Toledo.
“I missed all of that time last year because of a late hit,” Smith says. “Missing a game because of a football injury, when a guy lowers his shoulder and makes a big hit, is one thing. But being knocked out for kind of a cheap shot, is tougher to deal with.”